The Free MMO Roundup : Empires and Allies

The Free MMO Roundup : Empires and Allies (or .. well.. I dont even have a funny title this time)

I know its been a long time since a post and I apologize. Between work, fighting offshore copyright theft and my newest challenge I needed awhile to come back to the keyboard.

And here I am with another gem, Empires and Allies by Zynga. Zynga has the fame, or imfamy, of being the developer of several facebook games including the “ville” series. (Farmville, Cafeville, Cityville) and while these are wildly successful I need to address something right away about Zynga.

These are not games. Games have a goal, a challenge, and are fun. And while some of Zynga’s titles achieve some of this, they are not successful in being games. Rather let’s call them “activities”. Zynga’s online activities foster the idea that you must log in at pre determined times to do tasks that mean nothing in the long run. Without an end goal they become activities in making your farm, city, or empire ‘pretty’ and to achieve the best in pretty you must encourage others to play to help you out. I can’t fault Zynga for changing the meaning of game to fit their own means, but I can defend as best I can the title ‘game’.

Focusing on Empires and Allies, the activity centers around building up an empire after an attack by a story line enemy. Combat is handled with a paper rock scissors system. To do so you must build up the standard types of buildings encountered in strategic games, grow and collect resources and as you beat down the enemy in story line, you play ‘war games’ with your neighbors.

Wait.. War games?

Here is the first oddity of the game. You have your sworn enemy in the computer which provides some combat, but your neighbors can also attack you. This is cool because people who are your ‘friends’ end up laying siege. The problem is that they can’t hurt you. Sure they land troops far too powerful for you and clutter up your screen but all those troops you had protecting your precious empire are still happily guarding the same places (probably playing cards with the attackers). The only way you lose is if you try to repel them and lose troops. Meh, just let them stay until an even more powerful neighbor removes them for you! Zynga no doubt did this to remove griefing but the extreme of the mechanic makes the idea of defending useless.

Why have neighbors then?

Neighbors are important. Every day you can go to a neighbor and if you’re not feeling mean you can forgo an invasion and complete their work for them! Every action costs an energy point, and since you have a limited amount per day that helps. It also gains you a tiny bit of energy every time you help out a friend. They also can send you energy or items to expand your empire with more room to build. Cool huh?

So limited energy.. I see Zynga’s ploy!

Yes! That was the idea. People paid money for energy and that enabled rapid development. The formula is 1 free energy every five minutes. Since everything takes energy you can either spend your entire time working on other people’s stuff or buy your way to fame! But there’s a catch.. you never have to pay a cent.

What?

Yes. I’ve played now for a few weeks and since I’m ending. I thought I would share the formula for never giving a cent. Its tedious, but come on, everything is tedious, its a Zynga game.
– Every action takes an energy
– That means every time infantry shoots it takes 1 energy
– Every critical shot nets you 1 energy
– Every critical shot that kills the enemy nets you 2 energy
– you can go back and fight earlier story line battles over and with the paper rock scissors system have most of your shots critical

Yes, you can net energy.. while you’re doing these fights over and over you’re also collecting an insane amount of resources. You just have to make sure you have the time to grind and you never have to care.

So why play?

Yeah… Isn’t that the question. People play for a lot of reasons. I joined an add-me group on facebook and people are addicted to the game. Perhaps they love the never ending feel, or are just looking for the end of the story, but in all reality I have no clue. I hate games that force tedious behavior. I hate games that force spam on me, and I hate games that fold so easily that I can beat it with just clicking a lot of times. I do wonder if Zynga will fix the energy issue but seeing the implosion that happened when they limited energy from neighbors to 20 per day I doubt it. I do pity anyone who gives them a single dime though.

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~ by losthellhound on July 3, 2011.

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